Katie Couric's Notebook: Obama in Japan

On November 9, 1906, President Teddy Roosevelt set off on the very first presidential trip abroad to Panama - where he inspected the construction of the famous canal that connects the East to the West.

Today, President Obama departed for Asia on his eighth trip abroad this year. His first stop is Tokyo, where he's hoping to repair strained ties with a longtime ally.

The new Japanese leaders will greet him with konichiwas and bows and a few raised eyebrows. A feud over a military base in Okinawa is a symptom of a much larger problem - that Japan and the United States may be drifting apart on some significant policy matters.

A new political party controls Japan for the first time in 50 years, and along with that change will come some growing pains - but Japan's friendship is critical to U.S. strategy in Asia.

Rather than a canal, perhaps President Obama can repair a bridge that has joined the two nations since the end of World War Two.

That's a page from my notebook.

I'm Katie Couric, CBS News.